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Mon, Feb. 17

Lobbyist at center of bribery indictment denies guilt

PHOENIX — The lobbyist at the center of a bribery indictment is denying he's guilty of anything, with his attorney suggesting there's a hidden motive behind the allegations.

In a prepared statement, Jim Norton said he is innocent of the eight charges and is "confident these allegations will be shown to be without merit.''

Attorney Ivan Mathew went a step further, raising questions about the identity of the "unindicted co-conspirator'' who apparently gave prosecutors information linking Norton, former Arizona Corporation commissioner Gary Pierce, Pierce's wife Sherry, and George H. Johnson, the manager of Johnson Utilities.

"The motivation behind these allegations will become transparent when the identity of the 'unindicted co-conspirator' is revealed,'' Mathew stated. A spokesman for both Norton and Mathew said they would provide no further information or explanations behind Norton's activities outlined in the indictment.

Separately the attorney for Pierce and his wife said the indictment should be seen for what it is: simply the government using the facts it wants to tell what it thinks happened. "I have seen the indictment and have had access to some other information that the government possesses,'' said Tom Henze. "What I see is a picture that has two sides.''

He said the couple will tell their side of the story — but not now, adding that he, too, thinks the identity of the unindicted co-conspirator, when unmasked, will help the public better understand what's behind the charges. "I think it's obvious,'' he said.

Meanwhile, Democrat gubernatorial hopeful David Garcia is hoping to score points by demanding Gov. Doug Ducey disclose all ties he has had with Norton as well as Johnson who, aside from owning a water and sewer company, also is a developer.

Records obtained by Capitol Media Services show that Norton has given Ducey $9,000 for both his 2014 gubernatorial run as well as helping finance his 2018 re-election.

"He's known Jim since college,'' said Ducey press aide Daniel Scarpinato, adding that, campaign donations notwithstanding, there is no real ongoing relationship between the two.

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